He didn't think much of his chances.”
These are the opening lines
I’ve touched on this concept before (and I’ve certainly felt it this year): the Great
This is not a new concept in education. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this graph/chart that has appeared in over a dozen academic research papers from Harvard all the way to Oxford University in London.
Just kidding. I made this last night on Google Draw. But it still holds (some) validity!
See if anything about this chart looks familiar to you:
Being an educator is like being on a never-ending
See, once the honeymoon period ends (aka: week 1 of the school year), your energy and enthusiasm slowly start to diminish, and by December, you’re already feeling or fighting off what I’ve dubbed “Burnout Season.” Fortunately, winter break gives you a needed boost of energy and enthusiasm (“New Year, New You,” and all that). But then second semester begins and you start to sink lower and lower until you find yourself trapped somewhere between winter break, spring break, and Dante’s seventh circle of hell.
But then something magical happens. You can sense Spring Break is just weeks, if not days away. And, as an experienced educator, you know that when you get back from the break, you’ll be on a downhill run towards the finish line. Before you know it, April and May will be gone, and you’ll be staring the end of the school year in the eye and putting the Great
So, right about now, you might be thinking, “Okay
Obvious fact alert: the way roller coasters work is that the cars follow the tracks that have been laid before them. If the tracks go down, the cars go down and if the tracks go up, the cars go up. Okay, now that we’ve gotten the complex physics of roller coasters out of the way, let’s follow this metaphor of the emotional journey of a teacher acting in the same manner as a roller coaster.
The year is naturally designed to create high points and low points (peaks and valleys). However, if you start to build new tracks at the beginning of the year, tracks that keep the cars on a more even path, you can avoid the major dips that the school year is designed to create. So how does one build new tracks? Well, you can do it through intentional unit design, through developing close relationships with your students, and through creating a truly positive classroom environment. You also do it through the forced manufacturing of victories for both you and your students (never underestimate the power of manufactured victories).
Look, you know when you and your kids will start to hit a wall, so why not plan ahead and figure out ways to boost the morale of your classroom by creating an easy win for everyone? When I make my daily “To-Do” list, for example, I always include “Wake Up” and “Go To Work” on my list. Why? Because it feels so damned good to be able to cross two things off my list by 7am, that’s why! Do your students start to hit the wall between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Create a day in which the class celebrates the students with the largest recorded academic growth so far! Do you typically feel the strain between January and February? Use that time to have your kids work on a project you love! Nothing reignites your enthusiasm as an educator like a passion project! You get the idea…
Whatever your solution is, don’t put off planning it until you are closer to the problem. You can’t lay leveled tracks if you’re already moving downhill. Again, it’s like having an 18 month old child in your house: just when you think you’ve got six months of sanity remaining, BOOM! Guess what, mom and dad? I’m officially a toddler, and I’m here to gaslight you all day, every day! Now bring me that thing I’ve always loved so I can tell you how much I hate it now!
Now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, you said that you can’t avoid these traps every year, but what if you’re, like, one of those super happy teachers? Surely those teachers can avoid the February trap every year!” Wrong again,
Take me, for example. I’ve had a lot of changes in my life this year, both personally and professionally. I’m lucky enough that nearly all of these changes have been positive changes, but, as I’ve mentioned before: whether it’s negative or positive, all change is loss. While managing all of these changes this year, I lost sight of the tracks I was so used to
Hopefully, this won’t happen to you. Hopefully, you won’t fall into the traps of February and March. Hopefully, you’ll read this and remember my words next year and for many years beyond that. Because I’d not only like to imagine a world where I’ve contributed something positive to the educational world, I’d also like to imagine a world where my writing is at least at Clive Barker’s level.